Vixen Chat: ASH On Singing Backup For Janelle Monáe And Creating 'The Perfect EP'

ASH dishes to Vixen about her musical journey, her must-have beauty products and what she learned from Janelle Monáe.

ASH's road to stardom has been everything but boring. After bagging a bachelor's degree in Theater from Atlanta’s prestigious Spelman College, the brown-eyed beauty headed to the nation’s capital for a gig in homeland security. After bouncing across the country from D.C. to L.A. to ATL, ASH landed her first break in the limelight as one of Janelle Monáe’s backup singers.

“Singing with Janelle was so much fun,” she told VIBE Vixen. “If you look at any background vocalist, they kind of just stand behind the mic, doing their part by moving side to side, but man, with Janelle, (Laughs) we have to dance, split and sing. It was really fun because it pushed me harder than I think I would have ever been pushed, singing with anyone else. I become stronger and definitely a better performer, a better woman and just a lot more energetic.“

Now, the Cleveland native is putting what she learned from Janelle into practice as she strives to cement her own spot in the music industry with her debut project The Perfect EP.

VIBE Vixen: When did you first realize you wanted to do music?
ASH: I was about 12 when it hit me that [music] was something a little more serious than just singing around the house but my mom was not really on board with me pursuing anything at that age outside of school.

Who are some of your musical inspirations?
Chaka Khan is definitely my favorite female vocalist. She is a legend. Her voice is one of a kind. Her beauty, her passion, her ability to get up there and just sing her heart out with class and sexiness is something that I’ve always admired. I would also say Steve Perry from Journey. As a songwriter with such a big voice, he still has really emotional lyrics. I feel like I could always identify with those parts of him. And I love Babyface. I always feel he’s like a long lost uncle because he is an Aries like me. I feel like he understands love and how to write music in a way that can penetrate a listener.

Before you started singing, you had a job in public service on Capitol Hill.
When I graduated from college, I started looking for jobs; so I applied to homeland security and went through that whole process of trying to get hired and get into a class. So I moved to Washington, D.C. and I was networking on Capitol Hill, [while] babysitting. After a few months of that, I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I saved up some money and moved to L.A. for a little bit just to regroup, figure out my plan and how I was going to strategically pursue this career in music.

Was it a hard transition?
I didn’t plan on moving to L.A. for a long time. I had some really good mentors who live out there and so I saved up about $10,000—enough to have a rental car when I needed it, to eat and have money in the bank for just a couple of months. But yeah, it was scary because I did leave the stability of working in D.C. I was scared, but I wasn’t happy. I did my part by saving and making sure that I had a cushion for myself. It was scary because it was new but it wasn’t scary enough for me to think twice about it.

How did you start singing with Janelle Monáe?
I moved back to Atlanta from L.A. I decided Atlanta was the best bet for me because the cost of living is way better than D.C., L.A. or New York, but it still has a very musical background. You can still network. I was singing, doing little things here and there, and I had some friends who have auditioned for really big artists, and one of my friends was like, ‘Hey, Janelle is looking for some singers. You should totally go out for that position.’

A couple of months went by and I didn’t hear anything so I didn’t think much of it I was like ‘Oh, whatever I probably didn’t get it. There are so many singers out here.' I was actually in a weird space because I was like, ‘I wonder if I could move back to D.C. and kind of jump back into what I was doing before.’ Something told me, ‘No, this is what you’re supposed to do.’ So I literally jumped in the shower and was praying. My phone rang, but I missed the phone call. So then I got out the shower and saw a number that I did not recognize. When I checked my voicemail, it was her music director saying that they had heard a lot about me and that I was highly recommended. They were interested in knowing if I would give them a call back and maybe sing background for Janelle. So, of course, I was like ‘Absolutely.’

ALSO SEE: Dance Along To ASH’s ‘Anyway’ Video

When did you decide that you wanted to make that transition from backup singer to solo artist?
I knew years ago that I wanted to be a soloist, but there is a process to that. Singing with Janelle Monáe definitely gave me a lot more insight and understanding on what it means to be a performer and an artist. But what put the pressure on me was my father being terminally ill. One thing that he kept asking me was, ‘When are you going to put your own record out? I’m always recording videos of you performing with Janelle and I love her but I want you to put out something.' And so it hit me. I started gaining some inspiration, little by little. I would go home and write in my journal and over time, I pretty much put the record together. I was able to let my dad hear it and he loved it.

Switching gears a bit, what are some beauty products you can’t live without?
I definitely have to have a nice, black, wide-rimmed fedora hat. I need a spray water bottle for my hair to put my clips in. I’m addicted to mascara, so I definitely have to have that. And there is this eyeliner from MAC called Teddy that I’m addicted to. I have brown eyes, and [Teddy’s] a brown liner. It just kind of gives ‘hot’ without being over-the-top.

How would you describe your style?
I almost want to say it’s like the urban girl next door. I’m really chill. I love sneakers. I love flannels. I like sexiness, but not too much. I could just throw on some [Nike] dunks or a crazy shoe or something funky and different, but just simple.

Lastly, what inspires your music?
Well, really, just life. My honest personality has always been to respond to anything with love, and trying to put myself in people’s shoes from a foundation of love. If someone does me wrong or even with the fact that I was dealing with my father, who was my best friend, dying, how could I respond to these hurt feelings with love and in love? I wanted this EP to be very reflective of me and be very honest. I like to dance, I love to perform but at the same time while being pop, I still wanted to be honest and kind of give you soul through my lyrics. Hopefully there is a little bit of something for everybody to like on it.

Cop ASH.'s The Perfect EP on iTunes here.

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French Montana Sued For Sexual Assault, Battery And Emotional Distress

French Montana is being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman, according to a lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday (March 26). The accuser claims that she was sexually assaulted at the rapper's home two years ago.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is suing for assault and battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and more. Montana, his Coke Boys Records imprint, and employee, Mansour Bennounare, are named in the suit, which alleges that on or around March 28, 2018, the woman was invited to a recording studio where Montana and Bennouna were “working.” The documents allege that Montana and Bennouna were “drinking and using drugs” in the studio and offered her drinks, before inviting her back to Montana’s home in Hidden Hills, Calif.

The woman allegedly arrived at the home at around 6 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the woman claims that she stepped outside to phone a friend but was “lucid” and “unable to carry a conversation.” The woman went back inside Montana’s kitchen and although she “wanted to leave” she was urged to “take a shot,” the documents assert.

After being given a drink, the woman says that she blacked out and was therefore unable to give consent to “engage in any sexual activity” but remembers “several men” coming in out of the bedroom. She believes that Montana was one of the men.

The accuser says she woke up on a couch in a room “filled with curtains” at around 1 p.m. She was “confused” and “intoxicated” and felt pain in her pelvic area, vagina, and lower back, the suit states. The lawsuit also alleges that Bennouna was laying behind her in a “spooning manner,” groping her, and rubbing his genitals against her back.

The woman began “crying hysterically” because she believed that she had been drugged and raped. She grabbed her things and left the home. According to the suit, the woman went to a local hospital where a rape kit was administered. She also reported the alleged incident to police, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the defendants earn money from “promoting drinking, taking drugs and having sex with women,” and use their business as a front to “lure” women to their homes where they provide them with drugs and alcohol to have sex, with or without consent.

“Defendants had a longstanding practice of inviting women to their recording sessions, or choosing women at bars, and inviting them back to the Hidden Hills house which is also a hub of EMPLOYER DEFENDANTS business enterprises,” the lawsuit reads. “There Defendants would supply the women with drinks and drugs, with the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with them, without any regard to whether or not they consented, or were able to consent.”

The alleged assault caused the woman to have anxiety, “extreme emotional distress,” flashbacks, depression, and prevented her from continuing to pursue a career in modeling and acting. The suit is asking for a jury trial.

Montana, whose birth name is Karim Kharbouch, hasn’t publicly responded to the allegations.

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Prince’s Siblings Reportedly File Petition To Get Money From His Estate

The heirs to Prince’s fortune want his estate to pay up. According to The Blast, the music legend’s siblings, Norine, Sharon and John, filed legal documents in hopes of green lighting “payment for service and efforts provided to the Estate.”

The trio claims that while “others” have been compensated, they have yet to be paid after putting time and energy into “business matters” related to the estate, which is being run by Comerica Bank.

“As this Court is aware, the Estate has now been on-going for over three years,” the documents reportedly state. “In this time, millions have been paid to the Personal Representatives, their accountants, attorneys, and legal advisors.”

The heirs accused Comerica of making money decisions without notifying them, which the bank has denied. Last year, a Minnesota judge denied the siblings’ request to limit the bank’s power over the estate.

Prince’s brothers and sisters want a judge to force Comerica to compensate them so that they can get out of financial ruin, including paying legal bills.

The Purple One’s estate is worth an estimated $200 million (down from $300 million) since his death in 2016. Prince died without a will but a judge ruled that his estate would be split between his six half-siblings. His brother, Alfred Jackson, who was 1/6 of the estate heirs died in 2019. Last December, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, sold off a chunk of her percentage of the estate to cover legal bills.

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Here’s How New Orleans Is Being Affected By Coronavirus

New Orleans has twice as many COVID-19 cases per capita than any other county or parish in the country. This time last month, the Big Easy welcomed over a million visitors for Mardi Gras, which likely contributed to the diseases spreading rapidly around the city.

New Orleans registered its first case of COVID-19 on March 9. As of Friday (March 27), the city reported more than 20 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 119. The death tole increased by 19% in one day, according to the Times-Picayune. That said, the number of those who have contracted the disease could vary due to a lack of testing in Louisiana, and around the country. The state reported 441 new cases as of Friday.

Male patients account for 43% of the COVID-19 cases in the state, while women make up 57%. The largest number of cases by age group are adults between the ages of 50-59. Orleans Parish, which is Louisiana’s third most populous parish behind East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, reported 57 of the 87 coronavirus-related deaths.

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The city is running out of hospital beds, and ventilators could be next on the list. Of the more the 773 reported patients hospitalized over COVID-19, 270 of them require ventilators. Louisiana has close to 2,800 ventilators statewide. While the city works to gain access to necessary medical supplies, others are stepping forward to help feed NOLA residents.

Earlier in the week, New Orleans Saints player Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, announced that they are donating $5 million to various charities including Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health, Jimmy Johns, and Waitr, to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.

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Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:31am PDT

In neighboring Mississippi, there are 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths out of 3,139 tests administered. Mississippi also has more women battling the disease (59%) than men (41%).

According to the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and other “hot spots” will have a worse week next week than they had this week.

In Milwaukee, the city’s Black community is being hit harder than any other group in the state. All of the eight deaths (five men and three women) in Milwaukee County were Black people, and seven of the eight were Milwaukee residents.

Philadelphia has at least 475 cases of the disease with over 2,200 confirmed cases statewide. On a positive note, more than 21,000 people  have tested negative for coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

With over 42,246 people testing positive for the disease, New York tops the list of coronavirus cases around the country and has been receiving the brunt of nationwide press around the pandemic, while states like Michigan, which falls fifth on the nationwide list, aren't generating the same amount of national headlines. The Midwestern state has been considered an epicenter  for the disease, and cities such as Detroit and Flint, where residents have been without clean water for years, are among the most vulnerable.

As of Thursday (March 28), the U.S. confirmed more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Over 100,000 people tested positive for the disease and while hospitals are still in need of critical supplies and testing kits, there is one small glimmer of hope: the fatality rate in the U.S. remains at less than 10% (1607 confirmed deaths), and over 2,000 people in the country have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.

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